The clues were everywhere. Last night’s episode opens with an isolated shot of Glenn charging through the woods. There’s the moment in the pet store when he insists that he must run off to set fires alone because it’s his plan, his responsibility. He tells Michonne that despite Rick’s orders, he’s not leaving anyone behind, which sounds like trouble. He pauses to look at the pocket watch Hershel gave him, a move that had “bad omen” written all over it. Then there’s the decision that proves to be his worst — trusting Nicholas, who’s not only a coward, but experiencing serious PTSD. Yet despite all of that, I was not prepared for Glenn to die. (I’d rank this as the most shocking death in Walking Dead history, slightly edging out Hershel’s beheading. Others were tearjerkers: Lori, Tyreese, and Noah, to name a few. But the out-of-the-blue nature of this one, combined with Glenn’s seniority on the show and his all-around likability, gives this one the OMG edge.)
Let’s cut right to it. Glenn’s scheme to torch the feed store is troubled from the start. En route, Nicholas sees one of the Alexandrians he abandoned, now turned and groaning. He volunteers to put the former 19-year-old down himself, and as they lock eyes, it’s clear Nicholas isn’t holding up well. If Nicholas was with Rick — well, Rick would never let this basket case play his wingman. But he’s with Glenn, who gives the fellow who once tried to kill him a pep talk. “You’re not that guy anymore,” he tells Nicholas. Sadly, Glenn is right. Nicholas isn’t simply a spineless wuss anymore. He’s completely broken.
There’s a good bit of Grim Reaper misdirection as we see the other Alexandrians get picked off one by one. There’s the whiner in the woods who thought Rick was to blame for their imminent demise — seconds later, walkers turn his throat into jerky. Chapeau-wearing Sturgess accidentally shoots one of his bros in the leg, then runs off; we later find him in a new role, as the centerpiece of a walker buffet. Annie’s gimpy ankle slows her down, and as she observed early on, if you can’t stay ahead of the dead, you’ll join them. And you knew Married Guy was a goner the second he scrawled that love note to his wife. In classic horror films, if you’re a cheerleader or the token minority, you’re not making it out alive. In TWD world, love is a death sentence. To drive that point home, not only does the note fall to the ground, it’s stomped on.
Michonne’s posse is down to just three. All signs point to one more tally on the body count, as Nicholas and Glenn end up in an alley that’s jammed up by zombies on both sides. Glenn empties his pistol and they resort to knife-play against a crushing horde. Their only option — climb up on a dumpster as walkers claw at their ankles. This is one of those moments when you wonder, How in the hell do they escape? Nicholas is screwed, but there’s no way this is how Glenn dies. Right?
Nicholas has another mental breakdown and gives Glenn the crazy eyes. “Thank you,” he says, before raising a gun to his head and pulling the trigger. Glenn is stunned, his face covered with blood. But here’s what bothers me — as Nicholas tumbles into the zombie mosh pit, why does Glenn fall with him? It looks like Glenn was trying to grab him. Maybe he was just so paralyzed that Nick’s limp body knocked him over. Either way, Glenn deserved better than becoming collateral damage for yet another Alexandrian that couldn’t handle life in zombie land.
The notion of what it takes to survive is driven home with the speech that Michonne gives Heath in the pet shop. He tries to establish some apocalyptic street cred, says hey, he’s gone on some runs — but he’s not a coldhearted dick like Rick. Michonne basically says, Child, please: “Have you ever had to kill people because they’d already killed your friends and were coming for you next? Have you ever done things that made you feel afraid of yourself afterward? Have you ever been covered in so much blood that you didn’t know if it was yours or walkers’ or your friends’? Huh? Then you don’t know.” All that was missing was a sword drop. From that point on, Heath follows her lead.
Michonne balances her tough talk with a little humanity. Rick seems to have given up on that, at least for now. When that whiny Alexandrian dies in the opener, Rick pauses only long enough to loot his body and tell Michonne and Glenn, “Get back safe.” One of the episode’s effective surprises comes when some Wolves who’ve apparently fled Alexandria ambush Rick in the RV. He somehow manages to fend off a two-on-one attack and takes out three more creepers outside — though perhaps riddling the RV with automatic gunfire was not the best tactic. They’re dead, but so is his ride, it seems. For the first time in a while, Rick looks utterly distraught and defeated. Walkers stream out of the woods and begin to engulf the trailer. Those zombies are also headed toward a very vulnerable Alexandria. We see Michonne’s forearm note — “You’re getting home” — is all but gone. Enter cliffhanger.
But that Glenn death scene though. This show really does love to tear its heroes down — and apart. Like Noah in the revolving door of gore, the camera lingers as we watch Glenn get eaten alive, organs torn from his body, walkers giddy with hunger feasting as he screams. An overhead view shows the undead scrambling to enjoy some Glenn-food before it’s gone. Losing Glenn, one of the original survivors in the series, might be a back-breaker for Rick’s group — can’t imagine how this is going to affect Maggie, who’s lost her entire family (and is possibly preggers?), and Rick, who’s down yet another close friend. Will this send him even further into take-no-prisoners mode? Or have the opposite effect?
Glenn’s last words to Rick were “Good luck, dumbass.” And yes, that’s ironic, given the supremely dumb — and deadly — decision to trust Nicholas. But Glenn never lost his heart, and in the end, that cost him. He refused to believe Nicholas was worthless, beyond redemption. He could have let Michonne run off to the feed shop and hightailed it home to his wife. But he focused on the big picture — protecting Alexandria. Better that Maggie is safe, even if he dies in the process, than to see her again and risk losing her as the safe zone falls. This was a great episode with nonstop tension. But we lost one hell of a pizza-delivery guy.